WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A church trip turned to tragedy.
Kimber Smitherman and John Natzle were brothers-in-law. Last week, they were in Wilmington for a fishing trip and the family said they were having the time of their lives.
On their way home to the Pilot Mountain area of North Carolina, they were involved in a car crash where they died.
“The church came knocking on the door of my grandmother’s house, of Kimber’s wife’s house, and told her the news,” said Smitherman’s grandson Tailor Shiver. “She instantly started screaming, crying, woke my brother up; he called me, I was at my house, and the only words that I heard out of the entire conversation was ‘Papa’s dead’.”
“I thought it was a nightmare because honestly, I was still asleep and, like I said, all I heard was ‘Papa’s dead’. We’re still to this day in total shock, disbelief,” said Shiver.
They were both family-oriented men. Smitherman was best known as ‘Papa’ and Natzle was the handyman.
“I think both, under the circumstances, they would both be very happy with everything going on. I mean, they have their entire family together right now,” Shiver said.
“The man couldn’t sneak into a room; he had a voice that was as loud as he is tall ― the man was 6 foot 7 [inches],” Shiver said about Smitherman. “And John, John was more of a craftsman; he was a handy man. If you needed anything done whatsoever, he was gonna be there. He made time to make sure.”
An unexpected loss makes the situation much harder, but Shiver said he had one last conversation with his Papa just hours before the devastating news.
“I talked to papa the night before, about 10 o’clock, about some of his favorite things — like Wake Forest, hockey, and his great granddaughter,” said Shiver. “He was telling me about how he was excited to take my little girl trick-or-treating, to the carnival in town, and you know just get home.”
A phone call that will now be Shiver’s last memory with his grandfather.
“But I’m just glad Papa and John — they’re better than we are now,” Shiver said. “They both went through that intersection and they were both in the arms of Jesus before they hit the other side of the intersection, and for that I’m grateful.”
As for the man who hit the church group’s van, Antwomar Stevenson, he is facing multiple charges and only minor injuries. Troopers have charged him with two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and failure to yield causing serious injury.
“And for the other passengers that were in the van, I’ve reached out to them and let them know that we are here for them. And for the other driver, I want him to know that we are at peace, we’re struggling but we’re at peace. I wish him well, no harm at all, because you don’t know what people are going through,” Shiver said.
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